ICTS TL1 trainee Raymond Zhou's GlyTR technology research has just been recognized with a ~3.4 million 'Biden Cancer Moonshot' award as well as a separate STTR Phase 1 grant from the National Cancer Institute. The goal of the Cancer Moonshot effort initiated by Vice President Biden is to provide federal funding to the most promising approaches for eradicating cancer (https://www.cancer.gov/research/key-initiatives/moonshot-cancer-initiative).
Problem: The emergence of targeted anti-cancer drug therapies called Immunotherapies, (Which trigger the body's own immune system to fight cancer) hold great promise over the traditional treatment modalities of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The most potent therapies are bi-specific antibodies and genetically engineered CAR T cells, which display complete response rates of ~40-90% for B cell cancers. However, widespread development of these two therapies beyond B cell cancers is greatly limited by the small number of proteins specific to cancer that can be safely targeted by antibodies. Moreover, neither therapy is able to effectively target the most abundant and widely expressed cell surface cancer antigens known, namely tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACA's).
Although alterations in carbohydrate antigens are a near universal feature of cancer, generation of monoclonal antibodies specific to complex carbohydrates has proven to be very challenging. This has greatly limited their usefulness as targets for cancer immunotherapy.
Solution: GlyTR is a disruptive immunotherapy platform technology capable of targeting TACA's present in the vast majority of cancer types, from breast cancer to leukemia. GlyTR overcomes many of the shortcomings of current immunotherapies by binding to never before targeted sugar antigens (TACA's) that are common to virtually all types of cancer and essential to cancer growth and metastasis. A single GlyTR molecule triggers T cell dependent killing of numerous and diverse cancer types, including both blood cancers and solid tumors. Such broad activity is not possible with current technology. GlyTR is a platform technology that can generate multiple distinct bi-specific proteins and engineered T cells targeting different carbohydrate antigens common to both blood cancers and solid tumors.
Congratulations to Dr. Raymond Zhou and his mentor Dr. Michael Demetriou on this exciting achievement!